13:25 GMT17 February 2020
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    Boko Haram militants have launched a major offensive on Maiduguri, the capital of Nigeria's Borno State, as the Nigerian military scrambles jets to respond.

    MOSCOW, January 25 (Sputnik) —Boko Haram militants began an offensive against the city of Maiduguri after midnight on Sunday, according to Reuters.

    All roads have been closed and commercial activity was shut down, a security official told Reuters. AFP has reported that along with the military, residents and vigilantes are fighting back against Boko Haram fighters.

    Boko Haram began the offensive with an attack against the town of Njimtilo, about 20 kilometers from Maiduguri, according to a Nigerian daily, the Premium Times. Residents of nearby housing estates are fleeing their homes and heading to the downtown area, according to the publication.

    The attack comes after Saturday's Boko Haram attack on a village near Maiduguri. Later that day, President Goodluck Jonathan gave an election campaign speech in Maiduguri, promising to end Boko Haram violence. The opposition candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, was scheduled to arrive for a campaign stop in the city on Monday.

    Maiduguri is the capital of Nigeria's northwestern Borno State, with a population of 1.2 million people.

    Boko Haram is a militant group, which aims at establishing an Islamic state in northern Nigeria. Large swathes of land in the Borno State, as well as in neighboring Adamawa and Yobe are believed to be under control of the Islamists. The Boko Haram insurgency has left over 13,000 people dead since 2009.

    The Nigerian army launched an operation against the group in 2013, but the effort has stalled, although a national security advisor told BBC the country doesn't believe that there is a need for help from UN or African Union troops.

    On January 4, Boko Haram militants captured the town of Baga in Borno State, reportedly killing hundreds. "The human carnage perpetrated by Boko Haram terrorists in Baga was enormous," Muhammad Abba Gava, a spokesman for a local defense group that fights militants, told the Associated Press. Reports emerged that approximately 2,000 people, mostly women, children and the elderly, were killed, according to Amnesty International. Nigerian military said that the assault on Baga left 150 people dead, according to Reuters.


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